Sotto says LGUs can shoulder cash aid for ECQ; national gov't can pay later

Published July 31, 2021, 4:17 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Local government units (LGU) in Metro Manila should take the initiative in providing cash and other forms of aid for their constituents who would be displaced by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to be imposed anew starting August 6.

An officer of the DSWD distributes the emergency cash aid to a beneficiary in San Mateo, Rizal on June 23, 2021. (DSWD Facebook page)

This was Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s proposition on Saturday, July 31, as the national government still looks for funds for assistance the aid for affected residents when the strictest quarantine classification takes effect.

Sotto said the executive department can pay the LGUs for their expenses once fund sources are identified.

“‘Yong mga local government sana muna, ‘yong mga areas na to, sila na muna ‘yong mag-abono; papalitan ng national government sa kanila. Dapat ganoon ang maging usapin at kung pwede sanang ganoon ng mangyari (Local governments can shoulder the amount in the meantime for the concerned areas; the national government can pay them later. That should be part of the discussion and maybe we can do that),” the Senate said in an interview over radio DWIZ.

“Sa Metro Manila, kung para sa two weeks lang na ibibigay at mas mabilis silang mag-ayuda kesa sa i-asa naman sa DSWD…local government na muna, kaya yan…Karamihan sa NCR ang may kaya. May kaya ang mga LGU (If the assistance will only cover two weeks, and since they are faster than the Department of Social Welfare and Development in giving the aid, maybe the local government can provide. Many of the LGUs in the National Capital Region are well-off and can afford the expenses),” he added.

Sotto was also certain that government coffers may still accommodate the needed cash aid for the two-week ECQ. He recalled the loans availed of the executive department amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Meron pa namang hindi pa, sabi nga ni Sec Dominguez doon sa binabanggit niya, meron silang one percent na unspent, eh. Eh two weeks lang ito, kaya ‘yon doon (And there are also unspent funds, as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said, of one percent. The lockdown is only for two weeks, the government can shoulder it),” he added, referring to the P6 billion unreleased Bayanihan allocations that Dominguez disclosed to President Duterte.

“Tapos sabi naman ni Sen. Lacson, iba ‘yong sinasabing unspent ni Sec. Dominguez. So may pagkukunan kung tutuusin (Then Sen. Lacson pointed out that there are more unspent funds that what Sec. Dominiguez said. So we have enough sources of funds for assistance),” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said some P63 billion of COVID-19 funds were not spent by the Duterte administration.

Meanwhile, Sotto said the Senate would not be able pass a Bayanihan 3 law in time for the imposition of the ECQ, even if they prioritize it. House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco appealed to the Senate on Saturday to pass the third COVID-19 stimulus measure.

“Too late ‘yon para dito sa two weeks na lockdown. ‘Di aabot ‘yon. Kahit anong pilit namin next week, hindi aabot ‘yon (That would be too late for this two-week lockdown. We won’t make it. Even if we ruhs it next week, we won’t make it),” he said.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, in a separate DWIZ interview, also said senators would have to study carefully all of the contents of the proposed Bayanihan 3 before approving it.

The imposition of the ECQ does “not necessarily” equate to the immediate passage of the Bayanihan 3, he said.

“There must be a way na i-compensate ka ng gobyerno, so dapat mayroong tulong na umabot sa mga apektado ng lockdown, kasi tatamaan yong hanapbuhay, ‘yong pagkakakitaan, ‘yong trabaho. ‘Yan ang challenge: Bago ka mag-declare ng lock down, dapat na-compute mo na ‘yan (There must be a way for the government to compensate those to be affected by the lockdown, because it will affect livelihood, jobs. That’s the challenge: Before you declare a lockdown, you should have computed the funds for cash aid),” Pimentel told government officials.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque previously said that the government does not have enough funds for another round of cash aid in Metro Manila should an ECQ is imposed in the region.